How to Use Writing to Track Your Big Ideas
People often ask me what I do as Chief Tracker at Tracking Wonder. I help people think. It’s that simple. Except it’s not. Thinking means that we don’t only come up with new and useful big ideas.
It also means my idea-collaborators and I think through how to translate the most viable of those ideas into actual endeavors, entrepreneurial experiments, brand-aligned websites, start-ups, pitches, books, community-building efforts.
Really, I help people chart a path to earn a reputation, earn respect, and earn revenue for their beneficial or artful ideas. Not simple but profoundly rewarding.
This current journey all started with writing. Writing has been my way to discover what I think I’m thinking, to make meaning, to discover what’s behind what I’m feeling, and to participate in shaping a future.
If you have an idea that lights you up, writing might be a tool to help that idea get traction.
Honor your ideas
Most people I know and work with aren’t short of ideas. Their questions are usually some variation of, “Is this idea any good?” or “What do I do with this idea?” or “I want to do X with this idea, but how do I do that?” or “How do I get support [i.e.,from investors, customers, community, stakeholders, agents, publishers] for this idea?”
Writing helps all of them often get answers or collaborate in getting answers. Think about it: What do people whose ideas change the way we live do consistently?
Dan Pink, CLEAR CEO Caryn Seidman Becker, Richard Branson – they each contribute bountiful useful, innovative ideas. And they each never leave home or the office without a notebook. They track their ideas. They honor their ideas. Every day.
Carry a notebook + write. Not a journal or diary, but a notebook. A notebook is a place where you honor your ideas, observations, reveries, questions. Sure, there’s room to reflect and rant, confess and process. But a notebook gives you permission to dream, to wonder, to wander, to connect dots, to parlay with your ideas.
Your idea notebook
Get a notebook suitable for your ideas. I prefer a 5 x 7 black Moleskine unlined paper for business ideas, reading notes, and client ideas. A 5 x 7 red Moleskine unlined paper for my own writing projects, poems, and creative projects.
By the way, the 5 x 7 is the size of my iPad mini – and I can fit both Moleskines+ my iPad mini in my Rothco passport bag, which acts also as my wallet and commando-style man-purse. My iPad mini has cell phone functions so it also acts as my cell phone, by the way. I keep devices simple.
I also am an Evernote fan and keep lots of idea-files there. Evernote notebooks synch up on my desktops and my iPad mini. Evernote lets me record audio, clip images, clip Internet article notes.
The thing is to keep it simple. I don’t write in fancy clothed journals. They look too pretty, and I fear my scribbles and mind-dribbles will sully their taffeta dress. I want to hang out in the field or on the sidewalk with my notebook, not on the dance floor.
Write down a question that matters to you, your brand, business, book. Write down the burning question behind your idea – the question you want to answer if not live while pursuing this idea or project.
You don’t have to answer it right away. In fact, if you already know the answer – or think you do – then the idea probably is not worth your tracking and pursuing. You’ll probably lose interest in the project pretty quickly. So write down a question whose answer you’re not completely sure about but really care about. Then write some attempts to answer it.
If it’s related to your business, get curious. Dig into what could be different or better.
Seek evidence. Once you’re on the trail of a question, you’ll notice that your conversations with clients or friends will inform your question. The articles you read, the films you watch – it’s as if everything relates to your question. That’s cool. It means your dot-connector is awake. Connect the dots in your notebook. That’s the stuff of creativity and innovation.
Track what irritates you. Notice what bothers you in the field you work in. If you work at an office or for an organization, write what irritates you there.
If you start writing about what irritates you, you likely will discover that others are similarly irritated. Then you’ll feel called either to write something about it or eventually create a solution or alternative to what bugs you.
Ultimately, you write to effect change. Writing expands your point of view, and writing expands your readers’ point of view.
Writing helps you muster the courage to make change happen. (Click to share if this could help someone. I appreciate it.)
I don’t really know what I have to say – if anything – until I start drafting to discover what I have to say. And I never know how a piece of writing will take shape until I begin the first sentence. The practice of keeping idea notebooks for decades has helped me be comfortable with that drafting in private and crafting in public.
Month after month, year after year, there is no medium that compares to writing for helping you clarify, unpack, twist, and shape your ideas. Writing teaches you.
If this blog speaks to you I invite you to join our The Tracking Wonder Quest Community. Our community is comprised of professionals, entrepreneurs, creatives, teachers, coaches, and consultants dedicated to doing business from a place of authenticity and wonder. I’d be pleased to have you join us.